Saturday, December 24, 2005

New Year’s Thoughts, Remembering and Wishes for What’s to Come….

2005 has been a full and fulfilling year for me. Much has happened and many opportunities await me for 2006.

Some of the highlights of the year were:
The School of Shadow Coaching (SOSC) through A Better Perspective was successfully launched. Our trainings are now international and we have worked with an amazing group of talented professionals looking to expand their level of expertise. Perspectives Blog now has a family of subscribers from 68 countries and has created a dialogue across the world. Two eBooks were written and published on the web and 2 print books are on their way to completion.

Stay tuned for those. I’ll keep you posted.

Microsoft has asked me to join their group of visionaries on their 'In Real Time Collaboration Team'. I can’t wait to see what unfolds in that realm!

I was offered another radio show to host and no....I didn't accept. It was easier to turn it down this time than the first as I realise how much I love being in the trenches in real time and not just talking about it. The School and my work has taken me to various parts of the globe both in real time and through the wonders of technology. I’ve worked with clients through international natural disasters, political crises and organizational and individual change. They’ve grown as have I. All in all I’ve met some extraordinary people along the way. What a gift! They continue to enrich my life exponentially.

“It is by teaching that we teach ourselves, by relating that we observe, by affirming that we examine, by showing that we look, by writing that we think, by pumping that we draw water into the well.” - Henri Frederic Amiel

When I read this quote I realised it’s what sums up my life. As I teach and am challenged by my students, I continually grow and evolve in life and work. By virtue of the work I do as a Shadow Coach, observing the subtleties, discerning what isn’t obvious and then working with my clients to affirm those observations….we both grow. By being 100% present in conversation, in support, in relationships, showing others’ they are worthy of my time, energy and focus because I give of myself out of choice, not obligation, I live in congruence with my personal integrity......and by writing thoughts to share with others, I’ve created a community of sorts….whether local, international or, as in my blog, with people I have never met yet have made a connection with.

That’s what it’s all about for me….connecting the dots. I look at things from the inside out……observing, relating what I observe…..teaching to feed back what works and what doesn’t, …..paying attention. The biggest gift I can give anyone else, in my opinion, is awareness and presence. My time. My focus. My energy…..without judgment.

For each of you…...this is what I wish for you for the new year and beyond…..

A heart filled with wonder
Courage and inspiration when you most need it and when you don’t need it at all
Friendship….of the best kind
A true understanding of who you are and absolute acceptance of it
Simplicity in life
To bring joy wherever you go
To have faith in yourself
That what you look for you will find
That you follow your intuition…and pay attention to where it takes you
That you try something new and love it
That you continually learn and grow
And that your smile starts from within and radiates for all to see…..
….because you’re exactly where you want and need to be at this moment in time, help build your future and give you contentment and utmost satisfaction in the present.

All the best….
Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome new Perspectives subscriber from Turkey......68th country!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Right and Power to Decide

Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.” – Steven Covey

“Sorry to push you around” was a comment made last week by someone asking me to change my schedule to accommodate another’s. I thought about that for a long time. Do I let people push me around? Rarely. Is it because I have to be in total control of everything? No. Being in total control means being inflexible. I’m very flexible within reason.

What amazed me the most about that comment was how it didn’t push any buttons. That really made me smile. I can’t count how many times I hear how people turn themselves into proverbial pretzels to please someone else. They cancel last minute, do anything to “make the sale” charge rates so below their worth because they want to get the client. They twist themselves, turn themselves inside out to accommodate anyone and everyone else in the world other than themselves and when things fall apart they can’t for the lives of themselves figure out why.

We can’t as coaches teach freedom of tolerations and being ‘problem-free’ if we don’t live that freedom. We can’t ask anyone if they’re living their lives in congruence with their personal values and ethics if we don’t seem to have them.

If I cancel one client and shuffle my schedule to please another, then I’m minimizing the importance of the first client. And if I keep canceling things in my private life to fit one more person in, I’m of no value to anyone…the client or myself, for what I am teaching by personal example?

How often do you push aside your core values to fit in? …. to make a few extra dollars, get that one new client? What would that say about you?

To take it to a more personal level, how many times have you cancelled a date, lunch, get-together of some sort with a friend, family member, someone close to you because something better came along or someone else made demands of your time? What message does that give to the person you’ve asked for a rain-cheque with? And before I get a slew of emails giving me all the exceptions to what I just said such as emergencies an unscheduled work trips etc., that’s not what I’m talking about.

Think about it for a moment. It’s telling the person you cancelled on they’re not as important as a couple of tickets to something, a lunch with someone else who is more important or more socially connected.

As a human being it’s telling one person they have more value in my eyes than another. As a professional, it’s telling one existing client they’re not as important as another potential new client. In that case I am not worthy of either of them. And as a person I would have few personal ethics if I would minimize anyone for the sake of another.

Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.” (Covey) And our ultimate responsibility is to realise how we affect everyone else around us because of our choices.

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Having the Conversation

So I was talking to my coach a couple of weeks ago (and yes, I have a coach…don’t all successful people have them?) and one of the things that resonated was when she said “What is the conversation you have to have? Figure out what it is and who you need to have it with and have that conversation.” Well, she said it more eloquently, but that was the gist of it.

One of the things I’ve been struggling with is how to change the dynamics of my work. I love what I do. I am incredibly busy. I know I will have to change the flow, dynamics, ways I work as I get older as Shadowing takes an incredibly amount of mental and physical energy and even though I have more energy now than I did 10 years or so ago, I know that won’t continue into my 60’s or 70’s.

So what do I do and who do I do it with? That is my ongoing question.

Now that I’ve figured it out to some degree, I needed to figure out the conversation I would have with future clients so they could see my vision and how it would benefit them.

However, for my clients, what came to mind regularly were the words “Have the conversation” and how often they have applied to many other scenarios, situations I watched unfold in their worlds.

I find myself silently asking the question “Did they have that conversation?” When there is a breakdown in communication, in work or personal relationships and I hear everything that isn’t happening or is going wrong, that’s the first thing that comes to mind. Have they actually had that conversation to get past whatever the roadblock is? Sometimes the conversation needs to be with ourselves. What is it we want? What are we looking for? How can we articulate it so others can understand and wrap their heads around it so they’re on the same page? How can we ever move forward without a sense of understanding and clarity?

The only way for that to happen is to have the conversation.

How can others know what our passions are unless we tell them? How can they partner with us to create a vision without verbalizing it? And how can others know what it is we want without telling them and showing them how much we appreciate their help and input when they DO give us what we want?

By having the conversation.

Generative dialogue…..sharing our perspectives individually, creating something new and evolving together because of that conversation is a perfect example of a coach/client relationship. We help the client evolve in their lives but because of the conversation, we evolve in our practices and lives as well.

That goes for all aspects of life. Don’t assume. Find out. Don’t for one moment imagine someone is clairvoyant and can read your mind. Have the conversation and let it take you wherever it was meant to go.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, December 03, 2005


If we all lived by the assumption that what is accepted as true is, in fact true, then we would not only stagnate we would made radical, life altering decisions based on myth, not fact. However the power of making decisions based on assumptions, is that it generally spirals us downwards.

Communicating to others, colleagues, managers, etc. or, in this case not communicating, based on an assumption you don’t provide value because you never heard how wonderful you were, or something similar, makes it true because the tendency would be to close down and not share expertise or wisdom. Even if the others around the table thought otherwise, how you react to your own assumptions will prove it right. If you’re quiet and not interactive they WILL believe you have nothing of value to share.

Another example is when you assume you have communicated your needs or instructions so they were absolutely understood. There were no questions asked around the table so everyone MUST know what is needed, right? Not necessarily. Many other factors come to play, some of which are, they are distracted by what is coming up next, focused on one aspect of the work and didn’t even hear the rest etc etc. Never assume. Always ask if any of them need clarification before leaving the room. That will save you both a lot of “doing work over and fix-ups’ later.

Challenging assumptions is what leads you to the truth of the situation.

When I Shadow Coach a client and ask them if they are making an assumption that they might not be aware of, that’s where our conversation goes. What might other possibilities be? Why is it, human nature looks at the negative first? An assumption in itself… always has to be something ‘bad’.

What are the other possibilities? Often, being passed over or not acknowledged has nothing whatsoever to do with you. Rather the other person could be distracted, have a hidden agenda of what he/he wants out of a meeting or conversation. The greatest assumption we can make is that it’s always about us.

What if it wasn’t? How would that change the entire scenario and what if you asked for clarification before making that important decision? Whether it’s about a relationship, job, position or task, knowing the facts rather than assuming them will save you a heck of a lot of trouble and heartache along the way. Get over yourself. You’re not that important that it always has to be about you.

"Telling the future by looking at the past assumes that conditions remain constant. This is like driving a car by looking in the rearview mirror." -- Herb Brody.

It’s putting it all in perspective.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome subscriber from St. Lucia. 67 countries and counting!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

People are Evolving into Who They Will Be

People are fascinating simply because they are evolving into who they will be. And I love watching it happen at so many levels.

Every day brings a new bit of knowledge into our lives….if we look for it. Focusing on what we expect, on schedules, problems, the mundane same old same old, will give us just that, over and over and over again. Approaching those times with a mindful approach will give us so much more. It will teach us subtleties, show us the unexpected, show us how people interact. I often challenge my clients to be acutely aware of everything around them and to be ready to have a discussion about it. As I’m a Shadow and attend the same meetings as my clients, it’s an opportunity to share information we’ve both gathered to see if we were on the same page. It also gives my clients an opportunity to see if they can “stump their coach” which always gets them pumped and raring to try anything new (there’s a method to my madness).

My goal as a coach is to be redundant….to work with my clients at a level in which they begin to self-shadow or become their own observer, looking for how the pieces in a situational puzzle come together. Eventually they start to be aware of all the subtleties around them and how they fit within that puzzle.

One of my favourite ‘games’ I play with them is during such meetings. I just love hearing “Here we go again. Another hour or two wasted while my work piles up on my desk”. This is exactly what I love to hear. When clients have to attend committee meetings, especially those they’re not presenting at, they lose interest, focus and their level of energy starts waning. What I challenge them to do is to report back to me all the intricacies of the meeting….the personality plays, the politics….who plays up to whom and who is vying for attention even if they really aren’t a part of the central dynamics of that meeting.

Opportunities like this don’t come along every day. This is a time where my clients can learn volumes about colleagues, staff and superiors AND about themselves. It’s a lesson in personalities. This gives invaluable knowledge which they can use when working with these people.

Learning how to hone your radar skills is one way to help a relationship evolve into something completely different. Learning how to approach people by virtue of their personality profile is a very effective way to strengthen and cement relationships. People help you evolve. How you communicate with them evolve you even more.

Awareness is the key factor in self growth at every level. What you look for, you’ll get in others. What you look for for yourself you’ll get as well and if you’re open to the possibilities, you’ll get more than you ever dreamed of!

There is no ceiling. Only the sky.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Impostor Syndrome

"True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written; in writing what deserves to be read; and in so living as to make the world happier and better for our living in it." – Pliny the Elder

I keep coming across this quote in so many settings. It’s words like these that tease a coach, as it’s the basic reason why we do this kind of work in the first place, or so I would think.

I often look at the disconnects clients have in their life, their work….how they stop themselves from creating, sharing ideas, writing, as many suffer from the “Impostor Syndrome”, feeling they aren’t good enough to share their innermost thoughts and ideas.

Success comes from the inside out. You can’t be successful or recognise it if you don’t acknowledge it. And if you’re suffering from the Impostor Syndrome, then you don’t feel worthy of success, feel you’ll be ‘found out’ and dubbed the Impostor. Those living this, live in fear of being found out and not worthy of the position they hold.

Day after day they have this hidden fear that others will find out they’re not as bright and capable as they think they are….they’ll be exposed as incompetent any second. Excellence in their field, awards, recognition have nothing to do with their success; rather people living the Impostor Syndrome routinely dismiss their accomplishments as luck, being in the right place at the right time or having an engaging personality. Basically it’s a collection of feelings of inadequacy that simmer under the surface and undermine and persist even when they’re presented with information that shows otherwise.

Even in a subtle way I’ve heard how coaches don’t want to bother me because they’re not up to my level, they don’t feel they would have anything to contribute therefore won’t share. Not only are they underestimating themselves, but they’re not giving others the opportunity to listen, share and learn from experience and expertise, no matter how new.

An impostor can be one of a few things….
Firstly, feeling as if he/she doesn’t deserve their success, position or level of responsibility and by some fluke got there. They feel like intellectual frauds.

Secondly, they’re just lucky. They’re not sure what happened but it CAN’T be because they were qualified!

And thirdly, they have a very hard time accepting compliments and kudos. Successes aren’t celebrated; rather they’re minimized so as not to draw attention to the fact they don’t deserve the recognition in the first place.

Coaching people who live the Impostor Syndrome is more difficult using the classic tele-coaching model as the coach isn’t there to point out specific situational examples which would prove this theory invalid. Therefore the coach is only going by the client’s recounting of the event. Working in real time with the client is the best way to share situations as the truth of them unfolds. Clients therefore have much more difficulty convincing themselves and their coaches that the success isn’t well deserved. It’s a great starting point.

This isn’t an all or nothing kind of syndrome. Most of us could probably pinpoint a situation (or many) where someone has reacted in the same manner. Generally this syndrome is associated with high level, powerful people in positions of power. This is what distinguishes it from low self esteem. Low self esteem is when a person has a very low opinion of him/herself. The Impostor Syndrome is a disconnect between the person’s impression of their worth and their actual earned achievements.

When asked what the hardest thing to work on with clients is, my immediate answer is always “The Impostor Syndrome”. It lives deep and wide within them and takes a very long time to get past. But when they do, nothing can stop them. They just soar! And when they begin to live in alignment with who they really are....... contribute, give, share, learn and grow, the world really does become better for them living in it.

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I just returned from the 10th International Coach Federation Conference in San Jose, California. 1752 coaches from approximately 44 countries. Boggles the mind! I had great expectations of an event marking this special milestone in any organization, especially one in a field as young as Coaching. On one hand I was quite disappointed that there was no ‘meat’ to the conference for seasoned, experienced coaches. On the other hand, because the breakout sessions as a whole didn’t attract me or entice me to stay, I did one of two things: I either went to a session that intrigued me as a person, even if it didn’t relate to my work or, I networked with other coaches from across the Globe and listened to who they were, what they were doing, and made connections. Connections….not only for myself, but when I heard something that would connect to a colleague or friend, I’d pass on their name so connections could be made even after the conference was over. Some connections were by chance…by hearing something somewhere that sparked my interest and instigated a longer conversation off line. Those were the best.

I listened to a narrative coach (who greatly intrigued me as I believe the best way to capture one’s attention and imagination is through narrative). I listened to a first nation member who lives the art of listening and communication. I spoke to coaches from Singapore to Europe, Mexico through Australia. They all had different perspectives, insights…. ideas to share.

So even though the conference itself didn’t inspire me, the people who attended it did.

I connected with old, dear friends who I don’t get to see often enough. And I made new ones who I know I’ll be connecting with for many years to come. All of this created a synergy that goes well beyond venue. It goes to the heart of why we become coaches in the first place. It’s all about people.

It’s about people defining their dreams and living them, helping others achieve their level of excellence by support, interaction and collaboration. It’s about connecting and seeing where the dots lead you and it’s about knowing no matter what the content of an event like this presents, you will leave with a feeling of time well spent as the people are the ones who make it extraordinary.

On the way home we suffered a series of airport delays and bumpy rides. A combined six hours of flying turned into more than ten with lost luggage thrown into the equation. I was lucky enough to spend most of that time with coaches from the conference who I got to know better, and meet other ones who I hadn’t come across through the week. We laughed and shared and processed and decided to collaborate on projects all because of the extra time sitting in airports and on planes.

All in all I learned a lot, taught a lot and came away with a feeling of anticipation as I know these connections will enrich my life and career exponentially. So many possibilities ahead.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome new subscriber from Morocco. 66 countries and counting!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

You Are What You Think You Are

If your sense of security lies in your reputation or the things you have, your life will be in a constant state of threat and jeopardy because possessions may be lost, stolen or devalued. If your self worth constantly fluctuates, you don’t have any sense of consistency or anchorage or selfhood. You are constantly trying to protect and ensure your assets, properties, securities, position or reputation.

What you believe you are you are. How you perceive yourself becomes yourself. If you are your job and you aren’t successful at it, you equate yourself with failure. If you equate happiness and/or success with material possessions and you lose them for some reason, is there nothing left of you? Is that all you are?

Years ago I used to do volunteer workshops with teenaged girls. The first question I asked them was “Tell me about you.” And after they answered me I asked them to tell me about their best friend. The answers were all the same….”She dresses really well” ; “She has a great figure”; “She’s the most popular girl at school”; “I wish I had her hair etc. etc.

I stayed silent for a moment and asked them this “Are you only what you see in the mirror?” They didn’t know how to answer that. And then the conversation began. A few of the girls had little or no interaction with their parents. Their parents were so wrapped up in their own lives, traveling, working, socializing, that they left their kids pretty much to their own devices. A couple of the girls had eating disorders. Their parents hadn’t noticed. All they were to them, to their friends, was their physical presence, not their humanness……their heart, their mind, their passions….

I see it in teenagers and I see it in adults. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve interviewed new clients and asked them who they were only to hear what they do for a living, what they want to accomplish re: their professions, not necessarily one and the same with what they are passionate about in life.

Many equate happiness with the size of their paycheque. Many equate who they are with the level of their position. One is not a leader by virtue of their title or position within the organization. One isn't successful based on the amount of their paycheque. Everyone has a different idea of personal success. To be an effective organizational leader, one needs to be able to bring out the passions, talents and strengths of those around him/her and help them evolve because of them. The leader doesn't need to know how to do everything.....the leader needs to know who can do it and how well.

When someone meets you for the first time and asks you about yourself, do you immediately go into what you do for a living? your work? Is that all that defines you?

The other day I was reading a letter from a Coach in the U.S., Marshall Goldsmith who posed the question, if you had to choose a CEO for a large have X number of applicants with the same credentials, same level of knowledge, intelligence, credentials etc, making it an even playing field, who would you hire? You would take into consideration how those applicants got along with they behaved.

When I Shadow Coach my clients I am able to show them in real time how they behaved, processed, interacted, communicated....what was working, what wasn't.....who they were in the scheme of things. Did they help their staff grow? Hold them back? Were they utilizing the strengths and talents around them? Were they asking for what they thought they could get rather than what they wanted? The last question being very important as if you're asking for what you think you can get, you're assuming you can't have it all....and that demotivates those around you.

Who are you? The question isn't what do you do.....not about your's who you are inside it, besides it, in spite of it in some instances. And if I asked you that question right now.....would you have an answer that would make you smile?

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome new subscribers from Pakistan and Columbia, Nassau and Bermuda!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Tools of the Trade

Well after being inundated over the years for resource links for coaches and businesspreneurs, I decided to put them all together in a page of their own to help new and old businesses owners, coaches and trainers on their way to growing their business.

Each of the links I have on there has been tried and true and, when used properly, can grow your business exponentially.

If you have any other links you feel should be included, let us know. We'll review them and, if we like 'em, they'll go up on the site as well.

Here are ten or so to get you started. And remember...if you don't have time to get all this wonderful technology going, hire a Virtual Assistant to get you on your way.

Just click on the graphic and it'll take you right there.

And if for some reason it doesn't
go to


Donna Karlin

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Virtual Assistants

def “A Virtual Assistant (VA) is an independent entrepreneur providing administrative, creative and/or technical services. Utilizing advanced technological modes of communication and data delivery, a professional VA assists clients in his/her area of expertise from his/her own office on a contractual basis."

VA’s are a wonderful invention, or, I should say innovation....definitely a smart and innovative way of working! If you find yourself scrambling to get everything done, working well into the night because you’re not able to get through the administrivia that will bring you even more business, then seriously consider hiring one.

Yesterday I was on an interesting call with two professionals in this field. The first thing that came to mind when I first heard about Virtual Assistants was that FINALLY here is someone to handle all the non-client related stuff I never seem to have time for. The way the VA’s described it was having someone augmenting your business by filtering time-wasters as well as expanding ideas for increased visibility and effectiveness. They can do everything from submitting articles you’ve written to the right places, marketing, creative work, and technological stuff that might not be the most difficult to implement (for some) but certainly are time stealers. These are professionals who partner with you to support you in every way you need. They will free you up so you do what you want to be doing, and doing best; your profession! And they will help you grow your business in the interim.

It’s a way of working smarter, not harder.

In this fast paced world where many people are scrambling to keep up, (me included but you didn’t hear me say that : ) it’s time to take a step back and put processes and people in place to support you where you need it most. As I said to a client just the other day “You are so busy keeping up, that you’re not looking at why you’re so busy in the first place”. That’s where I come in as I 'shadow' them. What are they reacting to instead of responding? What is the bigger picture and what one thing can be put in place right now, so that that ripple effect will automatically put other things in place?”

Support staff, whether VA’s, Executive Assistants, Secretaries, etc, are only as good as the effective communication you have with them. If you don’t communicate your needs you’re not going to be supported. A tug of war will ensue rather than a collaborate effort. Train them to know you well, so they don’t second guess you. They need to know your ways of operating in order to do what they do best.

I can’t tell you how often I’m called in to “DO SOMETHING!” with a support staffer. Most of the time, all it takes is sitting down and expressing your needs and how you want things done. And if it’s not working, then another conversation needs to take place before the relationship breaks down even further. I know….common sense. We all need to be reminded now and then.

Just remember that saying where “It takes less time to just do it myself” doesn’t wash. It takes the same amount of time to show someone how to support you so you can be freed up to do what you have to/want to do. There will be a time when you’ll regret those words, when you feel as if you’re doing the job of 4 people, not just your own. Something’s gotta give and it’ll be you.

Donna Karlin

To find a virtual assistant that’s best suited for you, check out

*Note: Welcome new subscriber from Peru. 63 countries and counting!

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Yesterday a wonderful friend introduced me to a magical place and the artist, John Ceprano responsible for creating it. It’s all about balance. We spoke about that…perspective, balance, impressions, opinions. He creates the unimaginable out of rocks that seem to come to life in form, shape and character, creating a place of peace and beauty in and around the water so people can come and soak it in both visually and spiritually. The sun was strong, the water and sky deep blue and the parliament buildings in the background brought the various characteristics of Ottawa together in one special place.

It was so hard to leave. Something about this place drew you…. invited you to be a part of it and stay a while and, just like life, the rocks, sometimes balanced precariously on top of each other, seemed to find their own stability. Huge round rocks on triangular ones below with tiny pebbles holding them in place, stood strong and still among the geese, moving water and people milling about them. You would think they would tumble easily and yet there was strength and stillness about each statue that was tangible.

I feel very fortunate and honoured to have met the creator of such an extraordinary place. Now that I’ve experienced it, I can’t imagine these majestic statues not gracing the river….and hope John will be there for many years to come.

A place such as this invites you to slow down and take notice, and look at the balance in your own life. As many do balance one part precariously with another, for them the thrill of life not tumbling down around them, keeps them living on the edge….experiencing the ‘thrill of the game’. For others, it’s a way to look beyond their comfort zone into a place where the possibility of one rock balancing and relying on the other for stability and strength shows them there is more to life than meets the eye. Just like testing your footing on a climb, so is life built one level over another, one bit of knowledge expanding your realm and giving you a path towards something much larger.

John demonstrates how the simplest of things, rocks, stones and pebbles can come together to create the most magnificent sight imaginable, one rock at a time. Life too is like that……one experience, one person, one insight at a time. It’s only when you look back at where you were as opposed to where you are now that you might realise how far you’ve come. That too takes time and space to notice.

I encourage you from near and far to come and experience this place of wonder. It’s along the Ottawa River Parkway at Remic Rapids late summer/fall. John calls it ‘Balance in Art’. I call it a place where magic lives. You’ll come and experience the awe of the place and leave, albeit reluctantly, with a smile and a sense of peace that just won’t go away.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome 62nd subscriber from Yemen. Pull up a chair and stay a while. I hope you find much food for thought and welcome your comments and insights!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

People Often Become Their Work

I love watching people as they make their way through the chaos of their days. People are such complex creatures. If they weren’t I would be out of a job and even if I weren’t, coaching wouldn’t be anywhere near as fascinating as it is. I watch clients under-utilize talents, downplay strengths and try to fit in to the status quo of an organization for many reasons; some conscious, some not. I created a program around these observations for people to see others….and themselves, and how they live and experience life.

There are no quick fixes or answers for the way people live; rather it’s all about awareness. People are….do….live…..respond, react, are fun-loving, serious, want to belong or be alone. People are complicated.

People are often stuck in jobs too small for them to soar. Why are they stuck? Usually because discontent of the known is far easier to cope with than fear of the ‘what might be’ if they make the move.

People often become their work and lose who they are in the process. People are so busy keeping up, they don’t look at why they’re so busy in the first place. They become the job, losing their identity along the way.

People long for a sense of belonging, thereby doing jobs that go against the grain of who they are just to ‘fit in’. When people show their talents, colleagues can become competitive, angry, envious and territorial. That is one reason why people hide their talents, so they’ll belong and not stand out above the crowd. People want others to think highly of them, yet they’ll do little to self-acknowledge their successes.

Reflect light. Don’t hide from it. "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects the wind; the realist adjusts the sails." – Anonymous

Set yourself free from limitations and then watch yourself soar.

Donna Karlin

*Note: The ‘Perspectives’ subscriber countries have just hit 61! Welcome Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Uruguay and Russian Federation.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

To Know How to Suggest

“To know how to suggest is the great art of teaching. To attain it we must be able to guess what will interest; we must learn to read the childish soul as we might a piece of music. Then, by simply changing the key, we keep up the attraction and vary the song.” - Henri Frederic Amiel

This is one of those rare moments when I come across words of wisdom that combine my ‘two lives’….musician of the past and coach of the present. That’s not to say that my roots as a classical musician aren’t a part of everything I do and how I think, because they are. Music has a way of reaching a person’s soul much faster than any words can. Suggestions of what hadn’t been thought of before is another way to show someone how high they can fly. In music, as we all interpret it differently, connect to music in different ways depending on likes, moods, moments in time, it allows us to bypass all inhibitions and let go in ways known only to us.

David Whyte, the writer and poet has said: “Art is the act of triggering deep memories of what it means to be fully human.” That applies to all the arts….an expression of one’s self without rhyme or reason. It also applies to leaders who teach by inspiring that kind of passion in others. Suggesting a perspective so far out of the realm of what was thought of or possible in the past is one way to stimulate the imagination and allow us to see the depth and breadth of what life can offer us.

One of the suggestions a coach can pose to a client is, “What are you assuming that you’re not aware that you’re assuming?” The question is not that you’re making false assumptions; it’s that you might be making assumptions at all, even if you’re not aware you’re doing so.

Take the well known puzzle challenge….one I’m sure most of you have seen….to connect the 9 dots using 4 lines without lifting your pencil from the paper.

Once you’ve been told or shown the answer you know you were making an assumption…. that being you had to stay within the imaginary box the 9 dots formed. That wasn’t one of the rules. It was assumed.

Years ago, when I was doing a group workshop, the class had homework assignments to do every night that would give them more insight into their behaviour, and/or ‘programming’ or, as coaches love to say, a ‘POS’ ....their personal operating system that is buggy or out of date.

One of those assignments was to journal three full pages in their loose leaf binders, writing about what they became aware of through the day, things they learned, were reminded of, discovered etc. The only instructions given were to write three full, single-spaced pages, filling the pages completely. They were to write from the top down, side to side, filling the pages completely. They had to put the title on each page, the date and page 1 of 3, 2 of 3, etc. Other than that the rest of the page had to be filled completely.

Not one of the attendees heeded those instructions. Each one of them wrote the title on top of the first line and the rest was hand written single spaced from margin to margin. Even though the instructions were explicit, the words ‘filling the pages completely’ repeated with each direction, they ignored them. It was assumed they should write between the margins, even when it went against every instruction. They had a buddy who was to check to make sure the homework was done properly. The buddies didn’t pick it up either. In school, each attendee was trained to always write between margins and leave the white space at the top of the paper empty.

It’s time to change your personal operating system, especially when it no longer applies. A teacher, coach, leader….anyone who asks you to challenge the status quo will do the best teaching when they encourage you to expand your level of thinking to another level….way past the expression “thinking outside of the box”. In this case, there is no box to begin with….no ceiling. The height one can go is infinite.

What have you been assuming that you aren’t aware you’re assuming when it comes to ideas, work, life, experiencing, concepts, relationships….all that programming you’ve had over the years that is no longer serving you well?

No ceiling….no sky…..just endless possibilities.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Safety in Mediocrity

"Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down." - Ray Bradbury

Every time you stop and look fear or indecision in the face, you gain strength and confidence. One doesn’t become great by avoiding what isn’t comfortable. If you want to be safe and not rock the boat, you will never achieve greatness because you won’t step up and be noticed. Safety in business often means mediocrity. Safety in your profession will mean you stand in line with the ranks of many just like you….cookie cutters of the same…. a sea of faces from which a company or organization has to choose. It’s the unique individual, the one willing to take a risk who will be noticed and snapped up.

"Progress always involves risk; you can't steal second base and keep your foot on first." - Frederick Wilcox

Living an average life might be a good one, but you’ll rarely have that feeling of elation, of realisation (that lightbulb going off)….or of personal wonder.

What are you betting on? Who can you count on if not yourself? Or, in this case, the question is what in yourself can you absolutely count on? What talents do you have that you are under utilizing? Why? What is holding you back?

Many hide what they think is most unique about themselves. They share their everyday selves with the world. It’s easy. It’s safe. It’s superficial. Yet it is just that uniqueness….and taking that risk to show and capitalize on it that becomes one’s greatest potential. In sharing our uniqueness we discover the common thread of what is great in everyone on this planet.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome subscriber from Iceland. 57 countries and counting!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Hitting the Floor Running...

This is the time of year when vacations have come to an end, kids go back to school and at work, many of us hit the floor running. It’s a time to build, to grow, to get as much ‘in’ as one can before the holiday season is upon us. It’s time to clear away the mental clutter and focus on what you want to accomplish. This is the time of year when I am the most creative. After a quiet summer (well it’s all relative : ) lots of writing, creating concepts, programs, material to use in my practice, it’s time to put it all to the test. It’s also the time of year when I make the most changes in my life.

A man must be able to cut a knot, for everything cannot be untied; he must know how to disengage what is essential from the detail in which it is enwrapped, for everything cannot be equally considered; in a word, he must be able to simplify his duties, his business and his life. - Henri Frederic Amiel

A beautiful way for saying “Simplify your life” …a catch phrase many coaches use with clients who are wound so tight, have so many responsibilities and stressors (many self-imposed) personally and professionally, that they only way they can slow down to the speed of life is to cut knots, or, as I often say let go of the rope in a tug of war. The most damaging kind of tug of war is warring within yourself. “I could have done it better” “I should have made another choice” “Why didn’t I listen when everybody told me not to…..” "How stupid could I have been?" etc etc.

Then the war begins, paralyzing….making one stay stagnant in a time or situation that brought them down, not helped them soar. From that point on the spiral downwards continues until one hits rock bottom.

Choices come into play. Choices as to what we do, what we want, how we think, remember what it was that worked not dwell on what didn’t; learning from past mistakes not living among them. And then slowly but surely growth begins. Life is simpler….living in the present gives focus and energy. Using the past as a compass helps guide people to where they want to go instead of going backwards into an abyss.

I remember speaking at a conference when the discussion turned to being successful and self-sabotage. One of the attendees spoke about watching her once successful practice go down the tubes and she couldn’t figure out why. Well, being in a room filled with coaches, the questions started flying. It turned out that her whole family had failed in their perspective careers, businesses etc and once she became successful she was ashamed that she was doing so well when other members of her family were losing their homes, possessions and were out of work. Instead of inspiring them by example, she was on her way to joining their ranks.

Self-sabotage. We often hear how we are our own best enemies. Once things start going well we find fault, instead of looking for the next level to climb in the scheme of things, it’s anticipating the fall and in subtle ways making sure we eventually do fall.

People can grow as high as they reach, go as far as their choices take them and live their dreams when they take the time to acknowledge them.

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. - Gloria Steinem

Set your sights on the possibilities and reach for them. Cut the knot that binds you to a place you know is toxic and reach for one the rope that will pull you up and out of the ditch. Thomas Leonard used to say “Ceiling? What ceiling?” There is no end to what you can live if you design it, reach for it and begin to live it.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Here are a few pictures to share with you from this past of calm, peace and beauty....

Monday, August 29, 2005

You're Writing The Story of Your Life One Moment At A Time

Clients are overextended. They feel as if they need to be cloned. They are faced with demands for action on numerous priorities, are expected to deliver all in the same time frame and when pulled in all directions, the reaction is a given; mind-numbing stress.

The first step is to calm your mind enough to realise there is a solution. Once you approach the situation(s) from that perspective you can achieve that solution. However it’s getting one’s mind to the point of that comprehensibility that will lead to a time-saving advantage. Saving time gives time, increases effectiveness and facilitates freedom of mind clutter to accomplish even more.

Through my years of experience in coaching, the one theme that recurrs most often is the issue of time; lack of time to do focused work that creates results. A great deal of the time I’m called in to help my clients clarify just what it is they want to accomplish within the organization. Creating a strategy is only as good as the plan put in action to execute it. There is nothing more demoralizing than having this wonderful strategic plan and doing nothing with it or even more damaging, being expected to do it all at once. Execution of the plan is critical to its success. For that you need to choose fewer priorities and do them faster. Once those are off and running, you gauge the ripple effect and chances are your next three priorities will change and be redefined in some fashion. First step is to take a step. It’s a sequence of events. Everything cannot in any realm of possibility be done at the same time. That stymies growth.

There is something to be said about the old saying “One thing at a time”. In this faster paced world that might translate to two or three but never ten or twenty. When you find yourself tasking more than three priorities to your staff, stop yourself, take a look at that list and divvy it up. More than three aren’t priorities. They’re wish lists….stress triggers and a quick trip to hitting an organizational brick wall.

Start today on purpose.... on intention, not by chance.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome new subscribers from Trinidad and Tobago and Poland!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Growing Into Who I May Become

As long as I hold onto who I am right now, I won’t be able to grow into who I might become.

Mondays (when I’m not with a client) I take a good chunk of my day to do some administrivia. I do my paperwork, the bill paying, and wade through filed emails to see what I still need to keep, what I might work with for future projects and what follow-up B.F.’s I need to deal with.

This morning I came across an email exchange I had with a colleague way back when. We had been talking about learning through the process of coaching, not just learning the business of coaching, or through class material, conferences or seminars. Rather, coaches should learn from their clients daily….increasing awareness of who we are as individuals and professionals as well as ways of being for people as a whole.

I remember writing Sylvie as a response to a comment about my work. I shared with her “What was amazing was how much I learn when I’m Shadowing. Things I never knew existed. But even more so….the feedback I got this afternoon showed how many levels I work with them on when I’m on the scene. That’s what amazed me the most. This client told me how I also helped him change in a holistic way. Blew ME away. I wonder how many coaches are so wrapped up with coaching that they can forget they’re students at the same time? It doesn’t make us any less effective. Quite the opposite. It helps our clients realise the depth of their knowledge when we share how much we’ve learned in the process. It’s a true collaboration.”

Her response was “That’s why you’re so go damn good at what you do Sherlock! I learn tons from you and also keep you in my mind when I’m consulting and not sure what to do.”

There have been many a thread in the Coaching Insider as to old ways of Coaching, models perspectives etc. In the “old days” of coaching, we used to hold back any advice-giving or communication with regards to any sign we might not have all the answers. Now, things are changing dramatically. It might be easier because I’m a situational/observational coach and being there to deal with situations as they unfold is much easier from a coach’s perspective to deal with and process than if we only relied on the awareness factor of our clients. It’s even more powerful when I’m able to tell my client “It’s not important to know what you do as much as how you do it”. However it’s also incredibly powerful to turn to a client and ask “What is it you want from me right now? What am I missing?” and admit we’re both on a learning curve. Sometimes we need ‘permission’ to admit we don’t have all the answers but that in itself leads to a fact finding collaborative learning curve.

Maybe it stems from a conversation I had with my son a very long time ago when he asked me a question and my answer was an immediate “I have NO idea!”. He was in shock! He thought being a mother, I should have all the answers. Why? There’s no manual that deals with raising children 101… kids are all different. Just as my clients are all unique individuals and why would I even presume to use one model for all of them? True leaders not only realise the uniqueness of each of the staff, but harnesses it and grow because of it.

How does the saying go? “It’s a very stupid man who believes he has all the answers”. Something like that?

I would much rather ask the questions, teaching and learning from the answers.

One way I let go of who I am right now to become the person I may be in the future….. one question at a time.

Donna Karlin

Something my friend Ross Quinn asked me to share...

Joe Ranft in memorium

Joe was a very talented man who touched the lives of millions upon millions and made the world smile. He will be missed and remembered

Here’s to you Joe…..

Joe Ranft died in a car accident on California's Highway 1 on August 16, 2005. Joe was a major player in the Feature Animation industry ... providing stories, storyboards, voices, artwork and more ... for some of the most beloved Feature Animations of all time (see below for a link to his complete list of credits).

For all his amazing achievements, I will always remember him as the voices of Heimlich (A Bug's Life) and Wheezy the Penguin (Toy Story 2).

Joe was only 45. He is survived by his wife (Su), two children (Jordan -- 13 and Sophia -- 9), his mother (Ruth) and father (James), his two brothers (James and Jerome) and a sister (Ruth Ann Scott).

While the national media have virtually ignored his passing ... by August 19, searches for Joe Ranft were ranked THIRD by Technorati (a website that tracks search activity of over 15,000,000 BLOGS) just behind Cindy Sheehan and Jude Law.

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Joe RanftBorn: March 13, 1960 in Pasadena, California

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Only Way to Do Great Work

The only way to do great work is to love what you do. You can do a ‘good job’, you can meet deadlines and give the organization what it needs, helping its growth but those who do amazing work, innovative, energized, inspirational work are those who absolutely love what they do.

Last week I had a meeting with a woman in a position of leadership who I absolutely admire and respect. She turned to me in the middle of our conversation and asked “You really know who you are, don’t you?” We talked about that for a while. Yes, I know who I am and it’s a wonderful feeling. I love what I do and it shows. A colleague of mine pointed that out recently as well. We were talking about the difference between therapy, consulting and coaching (a heated discussion as we never see eye-to-eye on this) and when I told him a Coach is not supposed to advise a client; rather we’re supposed to challenge, show other perspectives, think globally if the client is thinking through tunnel vision. However the choices our clients make are theirs and theirs alone. When I spoke of my success using this model his immediate response was “You are successful because of who you are, not what you do”. That got me thinking….

Perhaps he’s right. I don’t know. I believe every person who is successful in his/her profession is so because of enthusiasm and love for what they are doing. Yes, a level of expertise is necessary (a given) however one can learn a skill and be proficient at it, but it’s those who are talented in their realms, and absolutely love every second of their work who create magic in their field.

Even though this is career 2½, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I live what I work at, live the concepts of the programs I coach by, the ways of being I speak about and, because I teach by example, I’m able to translate those concepts into real life situational change with my clients.

If life threw me a curve I know I would find a way to continue to coach. Can you say the same? Do you wake up every morning eager to begin the day, possibly not knowing what it’ll bring yet not caring as you know it’ll be something extraordinary even in an ordinary day?

What you do for a living will take up a huge chunk of every day….of your life. And if you don’t love it, then you need to find a way to. If you can’t see yourself changing professions, then find a way for your vocation to fund your avocation so you are doing what you love in some way shape or form.

In the last few years I’ve developed a personal motto to not settle. Nothing should be ‘good enough’….it should be great. Good enough for me is a steppingstone for what could be better. It’s not perfectionism; it’s knowing I’m working right now on what will be something I will look back on in the future that is great, creating a smile every time I think of it. But every day is like that for me. It’s either a learning experience, watching a client fly, a new idea or concept to explore and expand on for the future, or a moment in time that makes me stop in my tracks and take notice.

It is jumping into the deep end of each day and rising to the surface.

You will not be satisfied and have a sense of accomplishment if you’re settling. And before you come up with every reason in the book why your dream can’t happen, start by listing every way it can and begin building it right now.

Donna Karlin

* People from two new countries have joined the Perspectives ‘family’. Welcome readers from Dominica and the Czech Republic!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Jumping into the Deep End of Each Day

Day 1 back at work after almost 10 days off on holiday was fascinating. It took me an hour or so to get back into the rhythm of the intensity, but after that hour, I hit the floor running!

Monday was a quiet day spent in my office wading through approx. 2,600 emails, phone messages and scheduling changes (which continued to come through until 7:00 pm) Ahh a sense of accomplishment when the last email that had to be answered was dispatched and I could begin the next day with a clean slate. I’ve made a habit of booking off the first day after I’m back from any trip to wade through correspondence as there’s no point in struggling to play catch up all week long which would negate all the benefits of my time off.

Yesterday was hitting the floor running; back to back meetings, seeing clients, booking in my schedule for the fall and juggling Shadowing with creative time and teaching. I’m often asked how I can keep all the balls in the air and it’s easier than you’d think. It’s a matter of creating that balance within your work life as well as personal life. Knowing how much energy you typically have, mental and physical and working around that, creates an effective work balance.

Time management isn’t only about how many minutes you have in the day and how you compartmentalize them. It’s about knowing flow of energy, attention span, when to say no and when to jump in with both feet. It’s knowing your industry, profession, demands of the workplace and how to fit priorities around that.

My usual question to clients is “What few things can you do that will give you the most results the quickest?” Sometimes your second or third priorities will give you the biggest ‘bang for your buck’….and a ripple effect that will allow 10 other things to fall into place. It’s also knowing who should be doing what.

I often hear how my clients are short staffed and they don’t have enough people to get the work done. In many cases that is a fact. In others there are too many people tasked with one deliverable and what happens is, they are so strapped for finding time to meet, communicate, and forced to collaborate on so many levels that too many people slow down the process. Tasking to fewer staff, but having communication between staff increase about 25% actually increases the effectiveness of any organization.

So as I ran from meeting to meeting and heard “You have a tan! You look rested and energized! You actually DID take a holiday?” : ) to Oh no! She’s going to be even more pumped. Trouble!” I decided from now on to take shorter breaks but more frequent ones for mini-energy-boosters, though not long enough to put a monkey wrench into the flow and ebb of client demands and creative work with my R and D team (get ready guys ‘cause come September I’m going to hit the floor running there too!).

In the meantime I leave you with this…
Days like this, especially for us Canadians, days of warmth and sunshine and delicious heat are precious and leave all too soon. Remember to jump into the deep end of each day. Experience all the days have to offer and enjoy every moment of them.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The End to a Wonderful Holiday

Well slowing down to the speed of holiday life was a stretch for me….for a short while. It wasn’t relaxing that was the stretch; it was relaxing of the mind where I’m not waking up at dawn to hit the floor running.

Days were lazy and easy……long drives, sitting by the lake, talking, laughing, cooking when we felt like it and eating out the rest of the time. Each day was planned as it came, more by whim and spontaneity than careful planning. In my world of meetings, sometimes every half hour or less, taking each day as it came was also something to get used to. The one exception were the two plays we got tickets for and pretty much planned the rest of the week around them. For those of you who haven’t yet seen Mamma Mia, I heartily recommend it. It’ll bring back memories of times past, have your feet tapping at your seats and laughing until your sides ache. The other play we went to was called “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change!” Hysterically funny, wonderfully talented cast in a small playhouse, the Brockville Arts Centre, in Brockville Ontario. It’s a short drive for those living in Ottawa or Kingston, so do yourself a favour and get tickets while you can. You’ll be more than pleasantly surprised!

Thoughts came and went through the week, nostalgia, wishes, things to add to the few lists that have been growing over time; things to do, places to see and experience. I, as many others are, was so used to planning a vacation far away from home, that I failed to see what was right in front of my nose….a lake that’s like a slice of heaven (picture is of Otty Lake near Perth, Ontario), wonderful theatre, some of the best restaurants around and all within an hour’s drive.

It made me think that there’s a lot to explore right here and I’ll have a great time discovering all these hidden treasures over time. Ahh but that’s the thing….to remember to take the time to take it all in. As much as I adore my work, I can almost get used to this!

Monday it’s back to the crazy pace, but, as my friend John Pistorius commented to my last blog, “Ah, the peace of mind that can be had with rest. And the energy that can be realized after a good rest.” Well get ready because I’m energized and ready to go!

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Scent Triggered Memories

“Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once. A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth.“ - Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses.

Yesterday I took a trip down memory lane….to the places I grew up, the restaurants I frequented for years with family and friends….walked along the lake where we spent almost every weekend and holiday break, winter and summer, and, as I stood across the lake from the boathouse by the water, I remembered all the times I sat up on the balcony, seemingly suspended over the water, watching many a sunrise and sunset and black sky filled with a gazillion stars. The smells brought it all back….the pines the fresh air….even the smell of the maple syrup cured ham sandwiches we used to eat many years ago.

Some of the places have changed drastically, though Au Petit Poucet, seemed like it was frozen in time, servers wearing the same costumes, the walls, curtains and decorations staying the same though looking brand new. Ahh but the smell of the ham and baking maple syrup pies filled the air. That too brought back more memories than I could process.

It reminded me of a time where there was no pressure, no chaotic schedules…..just times by the lake, picking raspberries, walking to family nearby. It was a place where the rest of the world ceased to exist. The same feeling permeated me yesterday as I stood watching that boathouse breathing in the clean country air.

What an amazing feeling. Do you have a place out of time you remember like that? A place where you can travel back in time to, to put life into perspective?

Donna Karlin

* Note: Welcome new subscriber from the Bahamas. 52 countries and counting!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Switching into Holiday Mode

Well it’s now Day 3 into my holiday week. It’s been jam packed with a trip to the cottage, skimming the water in a speed boat, lazing by the lake under a tree, walking, exploring our own city’s centre, browsing through the tiny shops of the market….a place nearby but one I rarely take the time to explore like a tourist. And I have discovered the neatest tucked away places along the way.

We drove to Ile Perrot, Quebec, West of Montreal for the best Smoked Meat sandwich known to man…at Smoke Meat Pete’s and then wandered through my ‘roots’….where I grew up, the schools I went to and the old haunts where we hang out as kids. It was a day of reminiscing, remembering and lots of laughter and sharing. I can hardly believe it had only been two days.

And now a day of rain helps us slow down a bit and take in a movie, shop a bit and just be.

It’s taken me the 2 days to slow down to the speed of normal life, one I am not used to anymore. I live in a fast paced world of corporate and political intensity, where I might finish with one client by day and still have sessions with 2 afterwards. Much of the time the work starts when I leave my client’s office as I have to process it all, see trends, where they’re heading and present it back to them so they have a broader picture of their life as it is right now.

The mind is always going and is harder to slow down than the body. So even as I lazed by the water to unwind, it was much harder to do the same with my mind.

One of my friends looked at me and said “You need 2 weeks. One isn’t enough for you”. He may be right but adding on a weekend at the end, just might be perfect. This is already a stretch for me. However, if I like it….it just may become a trend : ) If I just didn't love what I do so much..... (that blog is coming up soon)

Sometimes making the decision to take the time off is the hardest of all. But you know what? The crazy and wonderful world of work as I know it will still be there when I get back next Monday morning.

In the meantime, I wish you a wonder-filled week.
Donna Karlin

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Holiday Time

I'm actually taking a week or so off. For those of you who know me and have the question at the tip of your tongue "Off off? or just not going into work off?" which I get all the time....the answer is off, away from the 'puter, blogging, writing (well at least for work).

We all need time to recharge our batteries, coaches included : )

I'll have a journal and pen closeby to jot down anecdotes, insights and anything else I think might eventually make it into my blog, though I'm sure the bulk of what's in there will be memories in the making just for me to take out years from now and smile as I read it.

We're going to go near and far to wherever strikes our fancy...exploring, seeing new sites, and revisiting some old ones. Still, a change in every sense of the word....great company, tons of music and places just lying in wait for us to discover.

I wish you all a wonderful week. Stay tuned....we'll be back soon!

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Top 7 Tips for Working Effectively From Home

For those of you who work from home on a regular basis, or, decide to give it a try a day a week, now and then, whatever… are some tips as to how to stay effective. Now for the Kings and Queens of amazing willpower, these tips won’t be necessary because you’re going to be able to stay on track anyway. These tips are more for those who need external influences, people and tools to help keep you on the straight and narrow.

1. Working from home can be a double edged sword. On one hand, some people love the idea of being able to work in their pajamas. Well, I have news for you pajama buffs….it’s been proven that if you don’t dress the part, your effectiveness goes way down. Sure you can dress casually, but as if it were ‘dress down Friday’ not getting ready for bed.

2. For you multi-taskers who decide once you’re home, you might as well put in a load of laundry, cook 10 meals, make those phone calls, well, you’re either going to be absolutely exhausted halfway through the day as you’re doing 2 jobs not one, but you’re not going to stay focused on the work that needs to be done. Create a plan of action ahead of time and stick to it. Household chores can be done after hours. You’re saving time on the commute, and if you stick to your plan you might even finish early. Focus on one thing at a time, the first being distinguishing between your work life and personal life.

3. Make sure someone from the office, a colleague or team member is in touch with you and that whatever you do from home has a direct bearing on what they are doing as well. That way if you stray, someone else will get you back in line because there are consequences for them too! A buddy system works….a colleague, staffer…anyone who might be waiting for your input before being able to continue with theirs. In a word....deadline.

4. Don’t stick to tedious work. It’s really easy to get into trouble and stray away from the job if you’re not happy with the content of the job. Have fun, make sure you love what you do. You should be loving what you’re doing at any rate as that’s what keeps you energized and on top of your ‘game’.

5. Prioritize. Keep a schedule. Write that schedule down in your planner (if you use one). Outlook isn’t as good when you’re sitting at your desk because you’re not as in tuned with that list that is on the side of your desk staring you in the face. Make sure those priorities are just that and get to them first. Then cross them off the list.

6. If family and friends know you’re working from home, then make sure they know it’s WORK. If you answer the phone and start a conversation, then why should they take you seriously if you don’t? Let the answering machine pick up messages and get back to them after hours. If the bell rings and you’re not expecting a delivery, then don’t answer the door. You’re working, remember? And if you were at the office, the carpet cleaners, driveway sealers and all those other tradesmen who love to come by and sell you something will come back when it’s convenient for you….not them!

7. Make sure you have a home office because working on the dining room or kitchen table doesn’t cut it. You’ll have to move everything later on and that’ll just create more chaos. If you have a home office, make sure it’s one you love that’s organized and inspires efficiency. If you have a home phone in there, turn off the ringer. Make sure the room also defines work from play.

Remember what works and what doesn’t work for you so you can automatically implement the necessary changes for the next time you choose to work from home. You might just find yourself ahead of the game rather than playing catch-up.

Donna Karlin

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Milestone…..All of a sudden there were 50….and then there were 51!

Two years and a bit ago I jumped into the world of blogging. I remember coming home from a conference in San Francisco right after Thomas died (Thomas Leonard) half my mind thinking that he should have been there…and somewhere in the back of my mind I heard Hal speaking about blogging, a term I had never come across before. Instantly my attention focused on this new concept, at least for me …. a way to hone my writing skills, get the word out about what I was doing within the Coaching industry and to create some kind of interactive conversation amongst coaches and clients.

I remember when I got home, walking into my son’s room, all smug because FINALLY I’d know about something in technology that he never heard of and asked “Mike….do you know what a blog is? (a smirk on my face while I asked). Oh the 5 seconds of glory! He turned to me and said “Sure! I’ve had one for 6 months now!”

Well so much for that.

Now, two years later, I was checking the subscription page to see that someone from country 50 just signed up to Perspectives. FIFTY! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have regular readers from 50 countries coming by to read, comment and email their three cents. And before I could write a post to celebrate that milestone, another subscriber came on board, making it 51!

So, welcome 50th subscriber from Oman and the 51st from Brunei Darussalam.

I hope you stay for a long time and share your perspectives, insights and ways of being as we create a community of like minded and not so like minded individuals. Through your comments and ideas, all of us will learn in ways we never imagined.

Someone once asked me why I blog as it takes commitment and time, which is always at a premium.

My answer is simple. To connect, to learn, to grow and experience life through your eyes.

And through my growth will come the growth of others…. students, colleagues and clients alike.

If nothing else, writing about life will help me to take a step back and acknowledge what’s happening within it and not be so busy or so caught up in my world that I fail to see the rest of the world around me.

Let me know if there are specific subjects you’d like to hear more about and I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime thanks for dropping by and spending a few moments here to help me celebrate this personal milestone, for it’s you I’m celebrating after all : )

Donna Karlin

Monday, July 18, 2005

Generative Dialogue

Putting everything in relevant relation to what you already think and know without being open to the possibilities that there's more, is a dialogue of the deaf. Talking openly means being willing to expose to others what is within of us. Listening openly means being willing to expose ourselves to something new from others.

Generative dialogue goes way beyond the simple every day conversation. It’s a way of listening from both perspectives, yours and the person you’re conversing with.

Not only do I shadow clients. I shadow meetings for effectiveness, deliverables and results. I can’t tell you how much time is wasted in offices as meeting after meeting takes place with no definitive plans or tangible results. In most organizations, it’s difficult to see the impact that might have. In industry, when millions of dollars are on the line at that meeting…..the results being the difference of you getting that contract or not, the end result is critical to the success of the organization.

Most executive groups create their own stress. Their dialogue doesn’t meet the needs of the organization and they lack the vision or broad-mindedness to try something new.

Often as I observe what goes, on, I’m asked to give advice on what they can do to improve the effectiveness of the group to which I often reply “Nothing will change until you begin to talk about the issues that really matter to you….not everything around it, causing the trouble, keeping you back, but bottom line, no skirting around issues….what matters. Right now you are talking around the issue. Most probably you will leave this boardroom table with the same challenges haunting you that were there when you walked through that door”.

Often executives talk at each other. They speak from a downloading perspective….only hearing what already confirms what they already think and know. They don’t generate solutions. It is a dialogue of the deaf. Conversation is more than words thrown back and forth at the table. It’s an art, a competency. Conversation is a skill one has to master in order to see growth and change.

When you don’t listen to colleagues and staff you are telling them they and their opinion have no value. Ignore them a few times and they will stop communicating. Decisions will be made on false assumptions, incomplete information and denial. Participants will be on the defensive sticking by their story. Their means of communication alone will be dysfunctional.

As competent as each individual is in the organization, as a group they rarely progress, as power and appearances become more important than the growth of the organization as a whole. The more people guard their knowledge and create boundaries, increasing internal competitiveness, the greater the chance of the organization becoming stagnant and eventually failing.

One leader with a vision cannot save an organization like this. That leader needs to translate that vision to a group of strong people who will be engaged, implementing that vision as a team.

People who devoted a lifetime to work they believed in become disillusioned and ultimately blamed for the ineffectiveness and stagnation of the organization. Key people leave and go where they are appreciated; where they have a chance to grow and learn and take ownership of the successes they’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Leaders who inspire others through a period of change begin that change with themselves. They grow with their team, reinventing process, thoughts and ways of being along the way. They are no longer only process driven. They regain their humanistic characteristics along the way showing all they interact with, they’re valued for their uniqueness and contributions not only to the organization but to all within it.

They get into the heads and hearts of those who share that vision with them. People want to feel they are appreciated for being their authentic selves. People see the world not as it is, but as who they are within it.

Where do you see yourself?

Donna Karlin

Saturday, July 16, 2005

It's All About People

I’m working on a mini-course / program / perspective-maker on people. (Stay tuned…it’ll be out this fall).

I’m a Shadow Coach. I observe people all day long, those I’m coaching directly and all those around them. I watch interactions, behaviours, communication styles and even more than that…ways of being.

I also watch as people place boundaries around themselves, and make assumptions by which they live their life which, in many cases, hold them back from growing. I can’t tell you how many times I hear “I want to be able to do ----- and when I can, I’ll be exactly where I want to be” and here I am, having observed them in action for the last few days, watching them already doing it. They just aren’t aware. They are making assumptions that they aren’t aware of making. They are demonstrating behavioural traits well beyond what they wish for. They just haven’t put a name to it.

And on the other side of the coin so to speak, people know what they want and set all sorts of boundaries around them to stop them from getting what they want. It’s quite amazing to watch.

For eg. People want to take more time for themselves but feel guilty taking it. So they bring up every excuse in the book why they can’t have it, can’t take it and by the time they’ve verbalized that list, they are so mentally and emotionally exhausted, even if they did take time, the guilt would take all the joy out of it. They articulate that too….adding “So why should I bother?”

Something as simple as taking a half hour just for them can be magnified to such an extent that they make excuses for it to those around them for the rest of the day. Talk about an energy drainer instead of replenisher.

So that becomes their ‘homework’ and they have to tell me the following day what it felt like, what they were going to do with their half hour the following day and the day after etc etc until it becomes habit; a joy, not a chore. And, miracle upon miracle sometimes it actually turns into an hour! It begins to feel positively decadent.

This is just one example. People want more time….they want to be healthier but aren’t responsible for their well being. Again that magic wand is supposed to save them when they aren’t. People are a lot more complicated than we realise. We just know a fraction of who they are and make judgments accordingly. People spend more time planning a two week vacation than on what they do the rest of the year. Makes sense to you?

And so the list goes on.

The whole point of this mini-e-teaser is to make us think….be aware, intoned. It will also push many a button as some of them come too close to home. But isn’t that the purpose of a coach? To help people stretch beyond their comfort zone until it’s comfortable?

If you have any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them. What have you observed about people that might help us all learn more about ways of being?

Donna Karlin

Friday, July 08, 2005

Actions that inspire others to dream more

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams

There has been a great deal of talk of late on leadership. Many have completely different views of what characteristics a leader must have. And, like anything else, leaders are only considered such by those who follow. However I liked this quote because it covers more than one realm of what a leader is. One can be inspired and motivated by someone in a position of leadership, however if that vision isn’t translated in such a way as to facilitate movement or growth, eventually the motivating aspects of that leader wanes, wears thin and disappears.

One can be a visionary, energetic, inspire others by virtue of that energy and enthusiasm but if it’s not translated in such a way as to create action and ongoing movement in an organization, helping others grow in the process, a rift forms which can paralyze the effectiveness of that leader, eventually diminishing the overall effectiveness and success of the organization as well.

A leader inspires, communicates his/her vision in such as way as to encompass and harness the uniqueness of those he/she works with. A plan of action is created and those who implement it are left to use their own unique talents to make that vision a reality. A leader does more, learning in the process as he/she collaborates and creates with colleagues, peers and staff. The end effect is everyone involved is pumped, energised and grows exponentially in the process.

A true leader becomes more powerful with people around him/her pulling the organization forward. With each subsequent project the team hones their skills and works like a well-oiled machine working better, faster, more collaboratively.

Organizational leaders who forget their talented people lose the loyalty and excellence those people can bring to the table thereby remaining leaders in name only.

I can’t tell you how many leaders I’ve observed over the years prior to coaching them who are brilliant in their own rights, passionate, energetic yet have no skills at translating those passions well enough to engage their talented resources resulting in anything concrete. They are scattered, unfocused, thinking about and creating the next brilliant idea (and yes, they are brilliant), but because they don’t communicate them well, do much with them, deliverables are few and far between, there is little sense of purpose or accomplishment and slowly but sure the best of the best leave and move on to other organizations.

There is more to leading than throwing ideas around a table. A leader with no one following is not much of a leader.

What do you have to do to make sure that doesn’t happen?

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome subscriber from 49th country……Serbia and Montenegro!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Pushed vs. Pulled

A good leader inspires others with confidence in him/her; a great leader inspires others with confidence in themselves. You can lead and barely say a word. Leaders inspire by doing, being, living in congruence with their personal values and ethics, showing others they can do the same.

Level or position of power leads by virtue of title, nothing else. It might motivate a person to meet a deadline or get that bonus but does it inspire them to do their best all on their own? Rarely. It gets people from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ and often leads to burn out. You’re being pushed harder and faster. You’re not being led. Leaders help others pull themselves forward with little or no resistance. Visualise a string. What is more effortless, pushing it or pulling it? Pushing a string, or a person to do your bidding is like being pushed up against a wall. Eventually there is nowhere to go. Pulling yourself forward because you are inspired to do so is almost effortless.

Leaders who inspire people to be their best by virtue of want and choice will be remembered, respected and will have achieved their purpose.

A leader doesn’t mean someone who has a dynamic personality, and it’s not about how many friends or connections you have or how you can talk people into doing something that might serve you. It’s not about false praise which is nothing more than empty flattery. Leadership is inspiring another person to live from the basis of a personal vision, to want to do better for no ‘reason’ at all, to stretch outside their comfort zone because the leader sees their potential and is able to communicate it.

Everyone grows and learns in the process, thus creating new leaders who will in turn lead the rest who might follow. Leadership is lived, not spoken about.

Just as important, because leaders are not determined by level or power, anyone can be a leader, whether for family, friends, co-workers, staff and even supervisors.

And before you might say “I’m not a leader” think for a moment of a time when you did lead someone else, even for one specific event or through a problematic situation. What turned you into a leader then and what will guide you to a position of leadership now?

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome 2 new subscribers from Croatia and Slovenia. Now our 'Perspectives' family of regular readers come from a total of 48 countries!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

"Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Harold Thurman Whitman

Recently I was talking to some clients about the difference between motivation and inspiration. It’s a subtle difference in one way but dramatic and powerful in another. Let me explain….

To be motivated means to be pushed by something. What I mean by that is a thing..... tangible, such as money, a promotion, praise, deadlines, bonus, plaque…something specific. Usually it motivates one to do their best (conditionally) because they will be externally rewarded.

On the other hand, inspiration is from within, or an intangible. The best way to describe that is being inspired by another person who never ceases to amaze you, your core values and integrity; the knowledge that through the process you won’t only grow but evolve through your life. Because it’s not conditional on a 'thing', it energizes you. It leaves you in complete control of your forward motion, thereby pulling you forward; much easier than being pushed. Pushing yourself on a regular basis…always trying to meet deadlines, make someone else happy or ‘please the boss’ is a recipe for burnout.

Inspiration creates superconductivity or absence of resistance. There is a flow, an energy and invites you to live by your core values and personal ethics. A great place to be.

The power is simple. Either let some external influence control how you work or live your life, or maintain total control over your choices and ways of being, evolving through a life you invent. Day by day, moment by moment you create your future in the present. Doing this via being inspired, will help you create the life you love and want, rather than living a life based on someone else’s expectations and conditions.

Think about it. Which is you right now. And when is the best time to take stock of what it is you’re doing? If you would change one thing right now, become inspired rather than motivated, what would that change be and what would the effects of that change look like?

All the best....or definitely better : )

Donna Karlin

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Affecting the Quality of the Day

“It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look. To affect the quality of the day----that is the highest of arts.” - Henry David Thoreau

This past week, a time of radical change both in government and leadership, one of my past client’s support staff looked at me when I walked into the room and said “You’re like a drug”. I looked at her puzzled, and said “I’m not sure that’s such a good thing” (smiling) and she answered “YES! It’s a wonderful thing. The minute I see you I calm right down and know it’s going to be a good day after all.” Well, I don’t credit myself to having the magical ability to change a day, however I am honoured she looks as me and the work I do in a way that helps her process the chaos and make some sense out of it. In that respect, I believe I did affect the quality of the day.

Regardless of what is going on around you, you always have the ability to smile and say a kind word; to acknowledge what you appreciate about someone. That too not only affects the quality of the day but how a person processes that one and the next, the next, and the one after that. The ripple effect is far reaching. All it takes is a moment or two. Are you taking advantage of those moments that come your way?

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome subscriber from Georgia. ‘Perspectives’ is honoured to have regular readers from 46 countries!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Stress....The Body and Mind's Response

"Stress is the body and mind's response to any stressful pressure that disrupts the balance in the mind or body. It occurs when our perceptions of events don't meet our expectations and we don't manage our reaction to the disappointment. As a response, stress expresses itself as resistance, tension, strain or frustration, that throws off our physiological and psychological equilibrium, keeping us out-of-sync and stressed-out." - Doc Childre and Howard Martin

What magnifies stress even more is when one dwells upon that which upsets them in the first place. Rather than create a future that you want, you dwell on that which you don’t want, starting off a downwards spiral.

For some in the political world, these past few weeks have been a constant unknown. Day to day threats of the opposition bringing down the government, or, at the very least paralyzing it, was the norm. Change right down through the ranks took place hour by hour. For those in positions of leadership, it was a professional living hell.

My role was to work with them to see the perfection in the chaos. No matter what happened, they were challenged to look at the situation as living ‘history in the making’. An exciting time. They would deal with the outcome no matter what. These are intelligent, resourceful people. Rather than dwelling on whether or not they might have a job a few weeks or months down the road, what could they concentrate on that was in their control? What were they learning about themselves in the process what would prove invaluable throughout their lifetime? Then we started to play with the scenarios. Stressful attitudes turned to “I’m up to anything that comes my way and then some” attitudes. They were pumped, focused, energised by what happened moment to moment. My questions almost demanded that they look at themselves from the perspective of what they wanted not what they were getting. How could they build and create their future based on the choices they made right then and there?”

The difference between reacting and responding might be a matter of 10 seconds. Reacting is an immediate answer based on fear, tension and stress. Choice is not a part of the equation. Responding to the same situation is taking a proverbial step back, looking at what's occurring from a global perspective and making an informed choice based on the information you have at that moment in time. It’s positive delay….taking a few moments to calm your thoughts, looking at all perspectives and moving in the direction you need to go to deal with that situation. Responding all but eliminates stress because you have more control.

It grounds you….helps you focus…and from that paradigm you choose and invent your future.

"Realize that now, in this moment of time, you are creating. You are creating your next moment. That is what's real." - Sara Paddison.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Political Chaos

All week long I’ve grappled with how to write this blog. I’ve been watching and living in the midst of chaotic political mess in a country not used to such things. I don’t have to have a particular party favourite to look at a group of representatives of the people and wonder what got them into power in the first place when none of them show any leadership whatsoever. It’s more like watching children fight with each other in a school yard and play manipulative games to see who will come out on top. Why they want to come out on top still remains to be seen as what is happening on the Hill doesn’t seem to have anything whatever to do with the will of the Canadian people.

If our party leaders cannot get along, how could we expect it globally? The world is in turmoil. Toss in natural disasters, unrest, poverty, disease and in a country that is usually one of the most peaceful, the leaders are at war with each other.

I know…in a perfect world they would sit down in a locked room and come up with some plan of action that would work for us all. As a Shadow Coach I would love to be there to “do my thing”, however they would need to be open to the possibility that what each of them is doing is unacceptable to the people at large. Do they see that? I would hope.

Chaotic is the perfect definition of what is happening right now. Def. a state of extreme confusion and disorder. It’s also the place where creativity begins… “In simple terms chaos is order without predictability. That is, there are systems, physical and social, that are well understood and yet are fundamentally unpredictable. Thus, chaos is not anarchy or randomness. Chaos is order, but it is order that is "invisible." - T.J. Cartwright

Chaos is creativity in process; the place between the breakdown of the old, and the formation of the new. No matter how we look at what is unfolding, this will be the creation of the new in some form. Watching it happen is history in the making. As a citizen, it’s not an easy thing to watch. As a Shadow or ontological Coach, it’s absolutely fascinating to watch.

There is chaos and then there’s the principle of chaos within leadership. Leaders welcome this kind of chaos because they anticipate the creative process that isn’t far behind. Leaders hone skills within that chaotic environment so they can master the resulting creativity, watch the effects of various outcomes and use them to know which areas to focus on and which to let go of.

They key word here, however is leader.

To use an old cliché, time will tell all.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Subscribers from 4 more countries have joined the Perspectives readership. Welcome Slovakia, Uruguay, South Africa and Korea. This brings our subscriber total to 45 countries!